Archive for January, 2014

Maintaining an Internet Presence

Posted in Hypothesis the 8th with tags on January 30, 2014 by PoPS blog

In order to maintain a presence, the first thing you have to do is get a Ouija Board. Then you constantly interact with whatever “presence” currently resides in your house. Ask it difficult questions that engage it, such as “What is the meaning of existence?” or “What is the meaning of Existenz? (a Cronenberg movie)” or “Why do Republicans so desperately want everyone armed and pregnant?” Then, when you’ve got it just where you want it, hit it with an exorcism! After all, those in the know recommend daily exorcise for health and wellness. Wait. I mean an internet presence, not a spiritual manifestation.

When I asked everyone if the weekly updates were hurting the PoPS YouTube channel, I got a lot of opinions coming in. Of course, once again, you have to weigh it against the fact that most of the people responding are regular updates watchers: Generous in spirit, very attractive, and severely interesting. They’ll also suggest the continuance of the updates because they regularly watch them. But they also raised some great points.

I had gotten stuck in the repeating mental cycle of Those who don’t click on the updates lose me from their subscription feed. Couple things. Not entirely true. The YouTube algorithm is apparently more complicated than that. I heard from people who seek out and watch every single update and re-watch the episodes say that I don’t appear in their subscription boxes anymore. WHAT? SENSE? DOES? THAT MAKE? I heard from other people who don’t usually watch any of the updates that I am still a fixture of their subscription boxes. Okay? So I guess click-throughs aren’t a main contributing factor.

It was also brought to my attention that having a channel that’s pretty much dormant for seven or eight months out of the year is probably not a great way to stay in subscription boxes or in the hearts and minds of our audience. Surprisingly, this had to be pointed out to me. That had not crossed my mind at all.

I initially started the updates, as Craig suggested, to maintain a constant presence on YouTube. The best way to not lose subscribers is to keep the channel active every week. The updates viewers seem to agree that it makes waiting for the episodes take less time. They feel engaged during the downtime. That’s highly valuable. I heard from people who don’t watch the episodes, they just watch the updates. Thankfully, I also heard from people who don’t want to watch the updates, but really love the episodes. The weekly updates are one of the reasons that The Collective asked us to become a partner. We keep an always-active channel.

Sometimes I get all hyped up about something and think I need to change something that’s already working. The updates do what they’ve always done. They do what they’re supposed to do. Why do I need to change that? I’ll just implement Craig’s initial suggestion and remove the numbers from them.

Thanks for reading, guys.

–Jake

PoPS video update 191-YouTube’s Changed. Should We?

Posted in Hypothesis the 8th on January 26, 2014 by PoPS blog

Episode 8 Shoot Days 22 & 23

Posted in Hypothesis the 8th on January 23, 2014 by PoPS blog

So, despite our little setbacks and tribulations, we’ve managed another couple of shoot days. And they were great.

Day 22-Sunday, January 12. We gathered in the morning to grab a couple of quarter-page and eighth-of-a-page scenes for the cold open and then got a four-and-a-half page dialogue scene shot. It involved some very specific blocking, and our take number got up into the double digits, but it was indoor, all daytime, and painless. It was wonderful. Early on in the production of this episode, our lens of choice—a 24-70mm EF Canon lens—had a little difficulty. The focus ring started slipping. There was suddenly no guarantee that the focus marks we set up would remain consistent. That didn’t stop me from wanting to rack focus every fifth shot, but it sure did increase our take count as we guessed and hoped our way toward completed takes with proper focus. By day 22, we’d sent the lens in for repair. Still waiting to get it back. Our producer Tim had rented a different 24-70mm for another shoot and we got to use it for the day. OH MY HEAVENS. Having a functional focus ring is so wonderful. And imperative on a day like this. In one of the longer shots involving all four main characters there were four different focus points and a lot of dialogue timing involved. If we had to add blown takes for a faulty focus ring it would have taken forever.

Day 23-Monday, January 20. Martin Luther King Jr. Day! A great day to celebrate a great man. Also, the day a production miracle happened. We’ve been trying to shoot a small fight scene since November. Rained out once, rained out a second time, followed by a search for a replacement location. I searched for a parking garage. It needed to be a location that was open to the public and still feel like it was semi-deserted to legitimately make sense for the scene. Every parking garage I approached either didn’t get back to me, we didn’t have enough insurance for, or it was operated by a shyster. It was a month and a half of dead ends. Finally, I decided it was never going to happen and set up a time for us to shoot it in a basement. We already have so many basements in the show, but we had access to a new one and we could at least get the scene shot. I’d concocted a silly-but-passable reason for the scene to take place in a basement, it was a little bit of a logic-bender, but I thought the audience would stick with us. Everything was scheduled and people were ready to go. The day before the shoot my friend Jill put me in touch with a guy she knew in a little community an hour north of the city named David. I got on the phone with him, he made a couple calls, and we suddenly had the third floor of a parking garage entirely to ourselves. I notified everyone of the change and we were on. After work we headed to location. Of course, there was a weather advisory. The temperature was dropping and it had started to snow. We were in a parking garage to get away from the snow in the first place. Illinois has been blanketed in the stuff since late December and it totally doesn’t match with all of our autumn exteriors. So here we were, heading to the garage and a little blizzard starts. Freezing wind blowing snow sideways. The whole deal. Everyone assembled a little after 7pm and we all headed up to the third floor. We shot until 11:30pm in 20 degree weather. Luckily, there was a heated stairwell nearby where cast that wasn’t being used could huddle between takes. We brushed the snow off of a couple of the cars to use as set dressing (again, to match autumn) and we powered through my two pages of set-ups. The thing that doesn’t quite match autumn is the copious amounts of steam billowing from people when they breathe. But it looks so cool and actually does match stuff we shot in 20-degree weather in October. 20 degrees! In OCTOBER. So steamy breathe is an episode 8 thing, I guess. This was also the first time we worked with a stunt crew. Just for one stunt, but they had the vest harness and a proper pull rope and everything. It looks super cool. I can’t believe it worked out. Last second. Thanks to Jill and David. Amazing.

Completely off topic, but my new favorite invention of the internet is unreleasable movie soundtracks as playlists on Spotify. All of the needle drops in the Donnie Darko soundtrack really help to set the tone for that picture. And despite Richard Kelly’s insistence on demeaning his own career by turning every one of his movies into a buffet of head-scratching what-the-eff’ery, (Just look at The Box, y’all. That concept was great. That was his chance to prove he could walk the line. Should have been a slam dunk. What the hell was Marsden doing in a floating box of water?!) I can’t stop loving Donnie Darko. But the official soundtrack is just the Michael Andrews score because of all the clearance issues involved in the 80s music. A Spotify user named Joseph F. Crawford has assembled all of the needle drops onto a playlist with the original score in film chronological order. Favsies. I’m just going to listen to this forever now. I hope you guys have a lovely week.

Thanks for reading.

–Jake

PoPS video update 190-Signing Posters

Posted in Hypothesis the 8th on January 19, 2014 by PoPS blog

A YouTuber’s Place

Posted in Hypothesis the 8th on January 16, 2014 by PoPS blog

This entry is a short meditation on the YouTubers place in the traditional industry. There are some great short films being made on YouTube, and the attitudes of the general public might slowly be changing but the industry still looks at popular channels on YouTube less as content creators than as part of the the marketing machine. It started a couple years ago, Pixar and Fox started flying YouTubers out for early screenings and interviews with department heads to broadcast on their channel. Or you’d see them standing red carpet-adjacent at premieres, maybe talking to stars (not usually), maybe just commenting on the excitement and spectacle of the event. Either way, the gist of the thing was grabbing people who had a lot of subscribers and getting them to talk about your movie on their channel. YouTubers aren’t filmmakers or video makers. They’re personalities. Talking heads, good for presenting the money-makers. The film industry sees popular YouTubers as the Ryan Seacrests of the internet.

A year ago, last January, I did a post about the breakouts. The guys who made YouTube shorts and than parlayed them into big industry gigs. The guy who directed the Evil Dead remake and the guy who lined up directing an major film adaptation of Y: The Last Man with his Portal fan film. Those are like the ONLY things on their channels. I know the Portal dude participated in other internet’y endeavors, but I’m saying that people who’ve made a “home” on YouTube are seen as presenters, not filmmakers. The industry doesn’t much care about subscribers. They care about views. The Portal fan film hit 1 million views in the first day. That’ll get your attention. They like the shock and awe factor of a viral video. If it also seems like something you could see at a film festival, then you’re a filmmaker. A filmmaker with a inherent understanding of this new media thing. Very valuable. If it’s a parody video, a sketch, or a vlog, you’re an internet thing. The industry doesn’t need to worry about you.

Then there’s dudes like Olan Rogers and Freddie Wong. Olan is always talking about how he wants to direct movies. He makes these really great looking shorts and series, talented as hell, watch a couple seconds of this and you’ll see what I mean:

What job does he get? He’s interviewing filmmakers and reviewing movies for Fandango. See? Presenter. Because he’s got a ton of subscribers but his shorts and series don’t pop a million views in one day. Freddie Wong is a viral superstar. I talk about him all the time. His shorts are all VFX sketches though based on video games. Unlike the Portal one that Dan Tractenberg did, they don’t have a short film tonality, they have a sketch comedy tonality. I don’t know if Freddie has been turning down offers to make traditional movies because he’d rather keep full creative control online, or what. The closest I’ve seen him get to the industry is, once again, promoting Cowboys and Aliens. Sure, it’s a much cooler version of promoting a movie by doing one of their amazing VFX sketches, but it’s still YouTube as another stop on the marketing pre-release schedule. Check it:

Even cooler is the behind-the-scenes video of the making of it:

I’ve seen British YouTubers ending up on a lot of red carpets lately. That’s what got this on my mind again. I just want to keep reiterating that although an online audience is a blessing, it’s by no means a stepping stone to the traditional industry.

The conundrum of it too is that guys like me—36,000 subscribers, episode parts with over 100,000 views, and total of over 4,000,000 video views, a multi-festival award-winning web series—we’re nothing to the industry. I just don’t pull the numbers. Just another drop in the YouTube bucket. But then this average guy who has a location he dangles in front of me for our current shoot, wastes my time by making me drive out to his location before trying to extort me at five times the rate I told him we could give him in our correspondence because our reel looks like Hollywood to him.

We’re in the perfect storm of a middle ground. I look like a low-rent presenter to Hollywood, and like Hollywood to the guy who I need favors from.

Once again, you guys don’t need to get worried or try to console me. I just needed to vent a little bit. It’s just been a tough couple of weeks. Tonight I get to do some more editing on the current episode. That usually makes me feel better.

Thanks for reading, guys.

–Jake

PoPS video update 189-The Curse of Episode 8

Posted in Hypothesis the 8th on January 12, 2014 by PoPS blog

The Curse of Episode 8

Posted in Hypothesis the 8th on January 9, 2014 by PoPS blog

Well, we…are…cursed. Not really. I don’t even feel upset about it anymore. This latest setback just felt like another drop in the bucket. I didn’t feel put out by it for even a second. As I said in the last update, we had 6 shoot days left for episode 8 in January. The first three of those were scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday of this week. Tuesday afternoon I got a call from one of my actors. Over her winter travels, the poor girl got pneumonia. PNEUMONIA! Now our schedule isn’t getting raked across the coals by rain outs, snow storms, or sudden work conflicts. Serious illness! Poor girl. Hopefully I’ll be able to line up those 3 days for the last week of January. It’s been a rough one this time.

The sudden appearance of 3 free evenings has not gone to waste though. The first night I spent a few more hours editing the cold open of episode 8. I have a pretty solid rough cut of it put together. I need to find the right music before it really works though. It’s really nice to see it coming together. I say that all the time. It’s always true. I also did an interview with a dude for a review blog called Snobby Robot.

The time we would have spent shooting on Wednesday night, we went to the gym to try and whip ourselves into better shape. 2014-No resolutions, just results. That’s not something we say. I just thought it sounded good. Maybe we will start saying it.

Tonight, Thursday night, I’m going to do as much editing on the episode as I can stand.

When we would have been shooting on Friday night, Eliza and I are actually considering going out on a date! It’s been ages since I’ve had the AMAZING black bean tostadas at our favorite vegetarian restaurant. That sounds like fun. Delicious fun.

Sunday, we have a full shoot day again. Finally. Unless somebody gets cholera or something.

On an unrelated note, as part of my real job at the magazine, I review movies every Friday. Anyone who’s watched the video update already knows of this, but I thought I’d link to my Top Ten Movies of 2013. I did a separate list directly on the blog last year, but there’s no movies like Cabin in the Woods this year that I can’t include on the work list.

Jake’s Top Ten Movies of 2013

Thanks for reading.

–Jake